As Real Salt Lake prepares for their second game in Texas this week, FC Dallas has had a full week of rest after their 0-0 draw in Houston — a result that the Dynamo quickly followed with a 5-1 demolition of our very own RSL just a few days later.
Dallas started off the season as the hottest team in the league, going unbeaten in their first nine outings and taking the western conference by storm. Things have died down a little for the Hoops as they’re now winless in four, and are missing a couple key players in defender Matt Hedges and midfielder Kellyn Acosta due to international duty, both with the US Men’s National Team. On top of that, they lost their other star center back Walker Zimmerman due to injury, who will be out for the next 4-6 weeks.
Boasting one of the best defenses in the league, they’ve only given up nine goals on the season while scoring 15, putting them in a three-way tie with Sporting Kansas City and Houston for the best goal differential in the conference (6).
There are a slew of players that really make this team perform the way they do, so let’s dive in and look at who some of the difference makers could be this weekend.
Maxi Urruti - Forward
While carrying a tally of six goals and two assists on the season, Urruti is one of the most potent attackers Dallas has seen in recent years. He hasn’t scored a goal since the last time Dallas and RSL met, claiming two of the three goals for his side in their 3-0 victory at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Although he may be in a bit of a scoring slump right now, he can never be counted out of the equation as he’s always dangerous and has been averaging just over three shots per game in his last 10 appearances.
After spending three years in Portland, the 26-year-old has found a home with FC Dallas as it seems he’s locked down the starting spot over the last two seasons, even with new DP signing Cristian Colman nipping at his heels.
Mauro Diaz - Midfielder
Regardless of who you support, it was a great moment last week when the world saw Mauro Diaz make his return to the pitch after being sidelined for the past seven months with an Achilles injury. He was originally supposed to be gone for an entire year, but his recovery went extremely well and last week’s derby against the Dynamo saw him subbed on near the end of the game to play nine minutes.
It’s safe to say that he won’t be in the starting eleven this weekend against RSL, but it’s likely that he’ll be on the bench as an option so Oscar Pareja can continue working him back into the regular lineup.
As perhaps one of the best playmakers in league history, Diaz is a big reason why Dallas has been so successful in recent years. Even while battling through other injuries for 18 months after he signed with Dallas in 2013, he’s managed 19 goals and 28 assists in MLS regular season play, and has had a hand in the majority of the attacking play for the Hoops when he’s fully healthy.
Michael Barrios - Midfielder
Signed in 2015, Barrios has made a definite impact on the way Dallas has played in recent years. While holding only one goal and three assists this season, that’s not indicative of how he’s capable of playing — he notched nine goals and two assists last year, while scoring seven and another two assists in 2015, his first season with the Hoops.
He’s small (5’4”) and lightning fast on the ball, and has a knack for drifting out wide and getting in behind defenders with ease. Barrios has been partnering with newcomer Roland Lamah — who was brought in to replace the void left by Fabian Castillo — to create havoc for plenty of teams with their speed and pace on the wings.
Javier Morales - Midfielder
We can’t talk about key players in Dallas without mentioning our ex-Maestro, Javi. He hasn’t played much at all this season — six games in total with four starts — but he obviously holds a special place in any game that RSL plays against Dallas.
Javi was originally brought in as a replacement for Mauro Diaz while he was on the road to recovery, but between other new midfielder signings and the depth the squad already had, he’s ended up with only 325 minutes on the season.
Last time these sides met, Pareja opted not to bring in Morales for the big return to Rio Tinto Stadium everyone was expecting and waiting for, even though they were handily defeating RSL. Whether he’ll make an appearance this weekend remains to be seen, but we’ll all feel that twinge of pain seeing Javi in a Dallas uniform, whether he’s playing or not.
Standings: 20 points, third in west
Form: W - D - L - L - D
Goals scored: 15
Goals allowed: 9
Points per game: 1.67
Maxi Urruti: 6
Kellyn Acosta: 3
Matt Hedges: 1
Maynor Figueroa: 1
Michael Barrios: 1
Roland Lamah: 1
Tesho Akindele: 1
Javier Morales: 1